"On the Marc" Reviews: WrestleMania 13
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Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois; March 23, 1997
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry “The King” Lawler (first WrestleMania paring of JR and the King)
This is the first WrestleMania that Vince Russo had a hand in booking so the infamous “shades of grey” are in full effect; lots of tweeners. The genesis of the Attitude era began here; 1997, in my opinion, was one of the best years for the WWF creatively. The slow change from the New Generation Era to the Attitude Era began in 1997 and completed at WrestleMania XIV. This is also the second WrestleMania to use numbers in the title instead of Roman numerals.
The Headbangers vs. The New Blackjacks vs. Furnas & LaFon vs. The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly Jim) fatal four-way elimination: Winners get a tag title shot on Raw the next day. The Godwinns are still loveable hillbilly faces they would morph soon after in the slow burn to the Attitude Era. It is really weird seeing Bradshaw as a Blackjack instead of JBL. Big brawl to start off and Henry Godwinn and Bradshaw start off. Thrasher tags in but gets big booted. Bradshaw nails a pump-handle slam. Phineas Godwinn tags in and backdrops Thrasher; Phineas tags in Mosh and the Headbangers mosh pit in lieu of wrestling each other and tag out. They double team flapjack Phil LaFon. LaFon hits a snap suplex and a reverse mule kick. Blackjack Windham comes in and gets hit with a Northern Lights suplex by LaFon. Doug Furnas comes in and nails a nasty hurracanrana; he tries to leapfrog but Windham catches him with one arm and powerslams him. Bradshaw readies for the lariat but Furnas counters. Furnas tries to suplex Bradshaw back into the ring but Windham interferes and Bradshaw suplexes Furnas to the floor where the Blackjacks and Furnas & LaFon battle to a double count out and eliminate each other. Meanwhile in the ring the Godwinns bodyslam each other onto Thrasher and Henry keeps coming. Phineas come in as Vince McMahon is obsessed with The Headbanger’s “unusual” attire. Thrasher and Phineas spit on each other and brawl with each other. Vince hints bestiality in reference to Phineas; um, okay? Henry Cactus clotheslines Mosh over the top. Mosh blocks Hank’s return to the ring and springboard clotheslines him off the apron to the floor then the Headbangers nail a missile launcher to the floor. Thrasher sets up Henry but misses the tope-rope moonsault. Two tags are made and Phineas is all riled up and attacks everyone in sight. Thrasher blocks the Slop Drop reverse DDT and Mosh clotheslines Phineas. A wild brawl ensues and Mosh nails the Stage Dive for three and a Tag Title shot tomorrow night on Raw. 4.5/10 Decent opening match that kind of got the crowd hot for the night. The strange tag rules hurt it a little but once it settled into a standard tag match it was passable. A shame Furnas & LaFon got eliminated, that team can go.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan (w/Mr. Bob Backlund & The Iron Sheik): The Honky Tonk Man dances in the ring and joins for commentary. WrestleMania debut for the future Rock; the Sultan is Rikishi Fatu. It is fun seeing Rocky as a plucky babyface underdog knowing the heights he would reach. Honky’s shouting is a little annoying on commentary. Sultan shoulder blocks Rocky; he comes back with a clothesline and a pair of dropkicks to put the Sultan on the floor. Rocky misses the Sultan and clotheslines the ringpost. Sultan pounds Rocky down and applies the trapezius hold. Rocky makes another mistake on the comeback and gets kneed in the gut. Sultan comes off the top with a knee drop/head-butt. I think the WWE DVD blocked out the heavy Rocky sucks chant from the crowd. Rocky tries a sunset flip but Sultan counters to a belly-to-belly suplex. The Sultan slaps on a chinlock. It sounds more devastating when you “slap on” a chinlock; still boring though. Rocky comes back and they clothesline each other. Vince McMahon believes the Sultan has the advantage and logically backs it up with Rocky’s inexperience. Who is this, why isn’t he screaming “ONE!! TWO!! HE GOT ‘EM!! HE GOT ‘EM!! No, no he didn’t,”? Rocky begins to come back, just like his dad, according to Vince. He hits a belly-to-belly. Rocky ascends the buckles and hits a top rope high cross body but Iron Sheik has the referee distracted. Hak-ptooey. Sultan regains the advantage with a crescent kick. Sultan; hits a piledriver. Rocky just kicks out at two ah, there’s the “he got ‘em, he got ‘em” from Vince. Meanwhile Rocky rolls up the Sultan for three. Post-match The Sultan, Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund beat on Rocky and apply the Camel Clutch until Rocky Johnson; his dad tries to make the save. Rocky (Maivia) revives and they abuse the Sheik. 3.5/10 Bland match but the Iron Sheik’s presence makes it a little worthwhile.
Ken Shamrock, the special referee for the Bret Hart/Steve Austin match, says no one will intimidate him in the submission match. Hunter Hearst Helmsley and his high voice say Goldust and Marlena are losers.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena): Goldust waits… waits… waits… clotheslines Helmsley out of the crouch position. Goldust works over Helmsley and ten-punches Helmsley in the corner. Hunter gets atomic dropped to the floor and Goldust hangs him in the ropes, slides to the floor and uppercuts him. Helmsley gets his arms caught in the ropes. Goldust tees off on Hunter’s huge nose. Sorry, Hunter but even the commentators were teasing you on that one. Goldust gets Helmsley back in the ring and slowly gets caught in a knee facebuster. Goldust shrugs it off and hits a powerslam. They fight on the tope rope in the superplex position; Hunter wins and sends Goldust to the floor, face first off the apron. Chyna, pre-surgery, was quite manly; looks on. Hunter tears Goldust’s outfit and methodically chops and stomps Goldust in the corner. Hunter bows for the crowd. Neckbreaker by Hunter for two; Helmsley applies an abdominal stretch; have not seen that one for the past few WrestleManias. Hunter grabs the ropes so the referee breaks it up. Now a chinlock applied. Hunter has definitely improved throughout the years. Goldust begins a comeback. Hunter DDTs Goldust to cut it off. Goldust tries a series of near falls to keep the crowd somewhat interested. Goldust hits a high-cross body for two. They collide in the center of the ring. Goldust counters a top rope double axe with a butt-butt. Jim Ross says “he (Goldust) hit him with his Lawler”. JR has an underrated dry sense of humor. They lie around a little and Goldust begins a punchy comeback. Goldust hits the bulldog for two. Chyna goes after Marlena as Goldust tries the Curtain Call. Goldust pulls her onto the apron to save her. Meanwhile, Helmsley knees Goldust in the back ricocheting Marlena into Chyna’s arms who bear hugs her like a rag doll. Helmsley hits the Pedigree for three. Post-match Goldust consoles Marlena in the ring. 2.5/10 It went a little too long and a very slow match with almost no heat to it considering the level of the feud at the time; Triple H definitely figured out better moves for his heat segments.
Shawn Michaels is in the back trying to figure out how to use a computer; now he has a twitter page.
WWF Tag Team Championship Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. Mankind & Vader (w/Paul Bearer): Pre-match Jim Ross tries to stir up more issues between the tag champions who were going through a possible break-up with Davy Boy as the face. Bret Hart reuniting the Hart Foundation shortly after WrestleMania 13 put the kibosh on that. The Bulldog is the current European Champion. This match is a prime example of a Vince Russo type match; all four competitors are heels. Owen was in his Slammy Award Winning phase. Vader mauls Owen Hart in the corner with forearm crossfaces. Owen utilizes the spinning wheel kick to knock Vader down his cross body attempt is caught though and slammed. Owen tries a hurracanrana but Vader counters to a powerbomb he sets up for the Vader Bomb but the Bulldog interferes. Mankind comes in and they all brawl. Bulldog counters into a double clothesline and Owen hits a double dropkick; I mean one foot hit Vader and one foot hit Mankind. Innovative. Mankind and Davy Boy go at it. Interesting little tidbit that is more common knowledge now; Mick Foley made his WWF debut versus the British Bulldogs. He fares a little better against Davy Boy here. Davy Boy hits a stalling suplex though. Vader comes in but the Bulldog suplex tosses him as well. Bulldog handles the opposition well and locks in a reverse chinlock on Mankind. Vader uses the old top rope low-bridge to send Davy Boy over the top. Mankind tries to use Paul Bearer’s urn; Vader acquires it and clobbers the British Bulldog with it. Back in the ring Vader suplexes the Bulldog and avalanches him. Vader sets up and nails a second-rope splash wow, those rarely hit but the Bulldog KICKS OUT. Mankind returns and hits the Cactus knee in the corner. Vader tags in as they work over the Bulldog. Vader tries another second-rope move but the Bulldog counters midair into a powerslam. Owen tags in and missile dropkicks Vader and a top rope cross body. Owen runs too many ropes and runs right into Vader. Mankind tags in but they toss Owen to the floor. Vader sets up Owen in the decapitator position; Mankind Cactus elbows down onto him. Mankind continues to pound on Owen on the look as Stu and Helen Hart look on blankly from the front row allowing Jerry Lawler to unload all his geriatric jokes. Owen counters a backslide into a DDT; Owen then counters again into a spinning wheel kick. Vader returns and beats on Owen more. Owen uses the spinning wheel kick to floor Vader but Vader stays on top. Mankind tags in and tosses Owen to the floor again but Owen counters a charging Mankind into a belly-to-belly on the floor. Owen’s enziguri finally allows the tag to the Bulldog who beats on everyone. He tosses Mankind into the corner but he hits the post. Mankind counters the Bulldog powerslam with the Mandible claw. Owen tries to save but Vader knocks him into Mankind and the Bulldog who fall through the ropes to the floor. Mankind applies the Mandible Claw on the floor and both guys get counted out. They brawl on the floor trying to get Mankind to relinquish the Claw. 6/10 Good hard hitting match that had some of the stiffest competitors involved; painful ending though.
Bret Hart/Steve Austin storyline goes like this: after WrestleMania XII Bret Hart took some time off; when he returned the New Generation he was comfortable with was becoming the Attitude Era and that did not sit well with Bret. After being repeatedly “screwed” by people like Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin; Bret continued to complain until the fans got tired of it and began to side with Austin. Bret’s frustrations got the better of him causing him to do out of character things such as push commentator Vince McMahon on his ass and an obscenity laced tirade at the end of a live Raw. Bret claimed the WWF and the fans had changed however it was Bret that was changing.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart submission match: From the UFC, Ken Shamrock is the special guest referee. Austin gets predominantly booed; Bret still gets cheered but it is a notably mixed reaction. Austin tackles Bret right off the bat. They brawl on the floor and Bret tosses Austin into the ringpost. Bret gets suplex crotched on the guard rail and clotheslined into the crowd. They brawl into the crowd; this was new and fresh for the time and not as trite as it would become later on in the Attitude Era. Bret dominates most of the crowd brawl which is out of character for him. Austin gets backdropped down the bleacher stairs. They return to the ringside area as Austin reverses a whip and Bret flies into the steel steps. Austin double flips off Bret and diving clotheslines him from the apron. They take turns ramming each other into the ring post. Bret counters a backdrop into a swinging neckbreaker and a driving elbow. Bret begins to work the leg and Austin’s bad knee. It is funny hearing Vince McMahon longtime face complain about Bret on commentary and Jerry Lawler, heel and Bret Hart foe agree with him. Austin counters the legwork and hits the Stone Cold Stunner. Bret kicks his leg out but Austin keeps getting up. This is the point where the fans began to side with Austin. Bret debuts the ringpost figure four leglock as Austin writhes in pain but will not quit. Bret grabs the ring bell and a chair. Bret tries to Pillmanize Austin’s leg but he recovers and waffles Bret off the turnbuckles with the chair to a huge ovation. Austin pounds Bret with the chair and hits a slam and a suplex. Austin drops the middle finger driving elbow (like Bret) and stomps his groin. Austin continues the Bret move hit parade with a Russian leg sweep. Bret applies an armbar/neck crank submission hold then segues into a Boston Crab; Bret makes the ropes. Austin goes for the Sharpshooter but Bret counters. Austin sidesteps Bret and tosses him to the floor to a mixed reaction. Bret reverses a whip on the floor and Austin wipes out a cameraman, timekeepers and Jim Ross. Austin is bleeding, big time. Bret tosses Austin into the steps and the ringpost. Bret mercilessly works the cut. Bret reintroduces the chair and works Austin’s bad leg with it. Now Bret tries the Sharpshooter and Austin uses the eyes just as Bret did to Austin earlier. Bret beats Austin in the corner. Austin counters by kicking Bret’s testies and mud hole stomps him in the corner. Austin sets up and nails a superplex. Stone Cold uses an electrical cord to try to hang Bret so Bret clocks him with the ring bell to counter. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter. Austin fights with blood dripping down his face in an iconic WrestleMania moment. Austin passes out from the pain so Ken Shamrock calls for the bell. Bret wins but Austin did not quit. Post-match Bret tries to maim Austin; Ken Shamrock stops him with a belly to back suplex. Bret gets in his face but leaves instead, to a chorus of boos. Austin refuses help to the back from Shamrock or any other referee. He stuns a referee and limps out on his own two feet to the fans chanting “Austin”. 9.5/10 Outstanding match that helped propel Steve Austin into the stratosphere and become the star of the late 90’s. A wild brawl that became the blueprint for most of the Attitude Era main events. This is also an interesting match in that Bret Hart came in as the face and Austin the heel and by sheer ring work and ring psychology; Bret was the heel and Austin, who never gave up, the face at the conclusion. You can actually feel the crowd turning on Bret midway through the match; THIS is how you tell a story in the ring and is becoming somewhat of a lost art.The Nation of Domination are going to destroy the Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson.
The Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination (w/Clarence Mason & PG-13) Chicago street fight: This is the original NOD: Crush, Faarooq and Savio Vega; I assume they were to represent all gangs since they have a black guy, a white guy and a Latino guy. The only part of the NOD I never understood was Clarence Mason’s involvement; what street gang has legal representation? The Legion of Doom brings the kitchen sink with them. A huge brawl erupts and that is the story of the whole match. LOD and Ahmed abuse PG-13, an unnamed Nation member (D’Lo Brown) and Clarence. Ahmed flips over the rail onto Crush. Animal uses a trash can. They brawl all over the ringside area. Animal kind of piledrives Faarooq on the French announce table. Crush uses a trash can and Savio uses a 2x4. A fire extinguisher is used on Faarooq obscuring the commentator’s viewpoint. Savio goes nuts on Ahmed and Hawk with a trash can. D’Lo sets up a traffic sign in the corner and Savio tosses Hawk into it. Ahmed uses the trash can on Faarooq and slams him through an announce table. Savio gets beaten by the trash can and more fire extinguishers are used. Crush who looks the complete opposite of the Crush from WrestleMania IX beats on Hawk. The NOD hang Ahmed Johnson with a noose while Faarooq uses the trash can to keep the LOD at bay. Savio beats on Ahmed in the crowd as the NOD try to hang Hawk with the noose; Animal makes the save with a huge road sign. They do hang Hawk as Crush beats on Animal with a wrench. Hawk frees himself by jerking Faarooq off the top turnbuckle with the noose’s rope. Faarooq is tied in the noose as Savio chokes Ahmed in the ring. Ahmed counters and hits a spinebuster on Faarooq and everyone is in the ring now. The LOD hit the Doomsday Device on Crush then clothesline him with the 2x4 for the pin. The brawl continues post-match; Ahmed Pearl River Plunges D’Lo and the faces hit stereo Doomsday Devices on PG-13. 5.5/10 Wild insane brawl impossible to completely recap. This was the beginning of Vince Russo’s “Gang Warz” that continued for the next year or so.
Shawn Michaels “regains his smile” and comes out for color commentary for the main event. Sid screams and yells then talks quiet AND YELLS AGAIN! I love Sid. Oh, BTW he’s not scared of the Undertaker.
WWF Heavyweight Championship Sycho Sid vs. The Undertaker no DQ, no count out: Match 6. Undertaker is wearing his original grey player one attire he debuted in back in 1990 for this match. This is the first time the Undertaker’s streak is mentioned at WrestleMania by Jim Ross. Pre-match Bret Hart arrives to complain and takes some inside jabs at Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and Sid. See, who is the face and who is the heel? Everyone is on their own side; it was sure as hell different back in 1997. Sid gets annoyed and powerbombs Bret and yells back at him. Undertaker attacks from behind; Sid counters but runs into Takers boot. Sid takes a Stinger splash and the ropewalk forearm. Sid catches the Undertaker in a bearhug. Shawn and Jerry Lawler trade insults on commentary saving the match a little; feel bad for the live crowd though. Sid clotheslines Taker over the top but, as always, he lands on his feet. He tried to drag Sid out but he counters and kicks Taker over the Spanish announce table and clotheslines Taker into the railing twice. Sid slams Undertaker onto the announce table. Sid returns to the ring and applies a Camel Clutch and a second rope double axe. Undertaker comes back but a powerslam puts Sid on top once again. A huge legdrop by Sid as the Hulk Hogan innuendos begin. Taker hits a high jumping clothesline but Sid stays in control. Taker begins a comeback but misses an elbow drop so Sid applies a reverse chinlock/face rake. Taker punches his way back and hits a powerslam. Since Yokozuna was not booked this year, Undertaker continues Yoko’s WrestleMania tradition and locks in a trapezius hold. Thrilling. Sid tries to comeback but meets a clothesline. They both go down off a double big boot. Sid slowly hits another double axe and a second-rope throat thrust. Sid tries again but Taker counters, Sid regains control with a slam. Sid goes to the top rope? Taker revives and crotches Sid and then choke tosses him off the top. Taker goes up and hits a flying clothesline but Sid kicks out. Taker cut-throat gestures; Sid reverses and Tombstones the Undertaker and tries to mock the Undertaker’s corpse style pin; Taker kicks out. They brawl on the floor where Bret Hart returns and kills Sid with a chair; Undertaker slams Sid back first into the post. Undertaker chokeslams Sid but he kicks out. Sid avoids the flying clothesline and sets up for the powerbomb but Bret Hart runs in again as all the commentators have now turned on Bret. The distraction allows Undertaker to scoop up Sid and Tombstone him for three and the title. 4/10 Undertaker FINALLY gets his big moment at WrestleMania after being kept on the back burner for years unfortunately for him; it was a very boring match. The focus was a little on the Bret Hart story a little too much as well.